Champion Game [M]
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April 27th, 2011 (12:09 PM). Edited April 30th, 2011 by Misheard Whisper.
Waiting for the rain
Doctor Drakken's lair
El Mundo de los Sueños
“Why do you think we hold the Ever Grande Conference, Ren?” Steven asked at length.
Ren frowned. He would have thought that the answer to that question was simple. “Uh . . . to find out who's the strongest Trainer in Hoenn?” he ventured.
“Yes,” Steven agreed, “but at the same time, it's far more than that.”
“What . . . what exactly do you mean by that?”
Steven took a deep breath and interlaced his fingers in front of him on the table, staring at them intently as if expecting them to answer for him. “What if I were to say to you, Ren . . . that there is a hidden factor determining how successful each person is as a Trainer?”
“I'd say you were mad,” Ren said. “Sounds like one of those crazy video games where you don't know how anything's calculated – it just does it for you.”
“Not so much,” Steven said. “There's no math involved. Just . . . power, if you will.”
“Power? What kind of power?” Ren felt himself being drawn in, despite his skepticism. Steven was making a face that was far too serious to doubt.
“That's just it. That's why this is so hard to explain. I . . . don't exactly know, Ren. But every Trainer – no, every
in this world has a measure of this power within them. I suppose you could call it a spiritual power, because it has nothing to do with physical strength or mental acuity. Sometimes you get muscle-headed imbeciles with huge reserves of this power; other times, the exact opposite. I'm at a loss as to which factors affect a person's spiritual power.” He paused, as if waiting for Ren to react.
“Sounds . . . confusing,” Ren offered, unwilling to give away too much of what he was thinking. A multitude of possibilities, explanations and worries were running through his mind at high speed, but he didn't feel like letting Steven be privy to them just yet. “So what does this power have to do with the Ever Grande Conference?”
“People will tell you that factors like age, experience, discipline, and the like determine who becomes a Champion, Ren. This is not true, and I am sure you, of all people, will be able to appreciate that. You came into this position at the age of just fourteen. By all rights, there is no way you should have been able to become Champion now. Yet you did.”
“I did,” Ren agreed. “But surely those things
matter, right? I mean, you get to be the Champion with a lot of hard work! It doesn't just . . . happen.”
Steven inclined his head. “You're right. It doesn't 'just happen'. And there is some truth in what you say – things like how long you have trained with your Pokemon, research into your opponent's strengths and weaknesses, and your strategy in battle
make a difference.”
“But that's not what you just said,” Ren pointed out.
“Perhaps I am going in circles a little,” Steven admitted. “What I mean is that while these factors play a large part in determining the winner of a Pokemon battle, that part is nowhere near as large as some would have you believe. What makes up the difference is something in
.” He tapped his chest with his left index finger.
Ren looked at him askance. “What . . . you mean, like, friendship or something? I thought that was the kind of stuff that happened in kids' TV shows?”
Steven shook his head. “No, Ren. Nothing so intransient or idealistic. What I speak of is this spiritual power that resides within everyone. Imagine, if you will, a scale. The scale reads one to ten. Each human being is placed somewhere on that scale, and that number, to a certain extent, determines their success as a Pokemon Trainer, should they choose to follow that path. Of course, the scale is completely hypothetical – there is no way of measuring this power. I consider myself to stand at about nine point three, but this is only a rough estimate. And again, like I said before, you can have something else contributing to your success. Somebody with a 'score' of eight or higher might lack the willpower to persevere in their goals. They might not be quite quick enough to make the split-second decisions that are required to make or break a Pokemon battle. Do you follow what I'm saying, Ren?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Ren said, nodding his head slowly. “In other words, whether we're going to be a good Pokemon Trainer or not . . . is predetermined?”
“To an extent, yes,” Steven admitted. “I've thought long and hard about the philosophical ramifications of this, and I would greatly enjoy discussing that with you, but here is not the place. Back to the point: each person has this power, and their Pokemon will react to it accordingly.”
“The Pokemon can sense this power?” Ren asked, surprised. “So, what . . . they see that their Trainer has this power and work harder?
“Not as such. Perhaps it would make more sense if I compared your Pokemon to plants. A plant, in normal soil – say, in your backyard – will grow well, provided it is cared for. You can make it grow higher by watering it regularly, keeping pests away from it, and protecting it from harsh wind and rain. Pokemon are much the same. You look after them, care for them, train them, and they will grow strong. Are you with me so far?”
Ren nodded. “Makes sense, I guess. I never really thought of it like that, but . . . Pokemon are a lot like plants, aren't they? And I don't mean just the Grass-types-”
“Focus!” Steven said sharply. “Now, tell me what happens if you decide to grow your plant in, say, the vicinity of Mount Chimney?”
“It . . . grows better?”
“Because of . . . the minerals in the soil, or something? It's been a while since I read any books on Geography.”
“Right. In other words, your plant will grow bigger because its environment is more conducive to growth. Provided you then water it properly and so on like you do its counterpart in your garden, it will turn out much larger and healthier, even though you treated it the same. Do you understand now?”
Suddenly, Ren did, although he was still having trouble attaching any form of credence to Steven's story. “Yeah . . . if a Pokemon's Trainer has a high level of – what did you call it? – spiritual power, it's like growing the plant in volcanic soil, right? And then it gets stronger more easily, yeah?”
“Correct!” Steven exclaimed, beaming. “I didn't really expect you to catch on so quickly, I'll admit. Not that I think you're slow, or anything like that, but I am unused to dealing with those younger than me.”
“No hard feelings,” said Ren, offering Steven a half-smile. “But I'm still taking everything you say with a pinch of salt, I'm afraid.”
“That's to be expected. I would begin to doubt the wisdom of telling you this if you believed it all instantly. However, I do have proof to back up what I'm saying, which I will show you soon enough. All I desired was to ensure you did not panic when faced with that evidence,” Steven said darkly.
Ren said nothing. What Steven said sounded crazy, yes, but he couldn't help believing him just a little bit. Steven Stone was not the sort of person to play jokes; Ren had gathered as much from the few encounters he had had with the man.
“Very well. In any case . . . this all leads back to the Ever Grande Conference. This contest is held annually in order to discover the person in each region who has the highest spiritual power. This has been going on for many decades, and there is a very good reason behind it, but that will become apparent soon enough. What is important is that you have defeated me, Ren. Do you understand what that means?”
Ren's eyes widened involuntarily. All throughout Steven's explanation, he had completely forgotten to apply what had been said to himself. He slapped himself mentally for the oversight. Steven had been trying to tell him something the whole time, and he had missed it completely.
“Yes, Ren. It means that you are currently the person in the Hoenn region with the highest spiritual power. You are the most volcanic of the volcanic soil, if that makes any sense. The legacy of the Hoenn League is now yours.”
“Was this all some elaborate way of handing over the Championship?” Ren asked, suddenly confused again.
“Essentially, yes, but it was not for any idle purpose that I explained all of this to you. For now, I believe, we are done, actually. Unless you have any further questions?”
“Hundreds,” Ren said.
“Many of them will have to wait,” Steven said, “but go ahead. I will answer as best I can.”
“Why is this important? For now, I'll take your word that I won the Championship because of this 'spiritual power'. Why is it so important that the Champion is someone with high spiritual power?”
“I think you are still mistaking the purpose of the League,” Steven said, smiling. “The Pokemon League was founded in order to find the strongest person in the region, for a very specific purpose. It was never to find the strongest for the sake of knowing who the strongest was. The annual boxing tournament is held to discover the best boxer in Hoenn. The biennial Dewford Surfing Extravaganza is held to find out who can ride the best wave. The Pokemon League is held so that Hoenn has a Champion. And Hoenn
a Champion, Ren. They need the strongest Champion they can get, and at the moment, that's you.”
“That, Ren, is what must be explained later. Take this.” From inside his shirt, Steven fished out a small, silver pendant, which he unclasped from around his neck and handed to Ren.
Ren examined it closely. It hung on a silver chain as fine as thread, a chain that looked like it should break if he touched it. The chain pooled gently in his hand, cautiously supporting the emblem that sat atop it. Attached to the chain by a single, delicate ring, it was about the size of Ren's thumbnail, carved intricately into the likeness of a cloud. Or was it a puff of smoke? The shape seemed to billow and flicker as he looked upon it, although when he blinked, hard, and looked at it again, he was quite sure that it was motionless. “What . . . is this?”
“It is the Dreamlight,” Steven said solemnly. “It must remain around your neck at all times now, Champion.”
“Looks awfully fragile,” Ren said worriedly as he drew out the gossamer-like chain and looped it around his neck, bringing the tiny, delicate clasp around to the front so he could see it while he tied it. Suddenly, he paused. “Why do I have to wear this?”
“It is a symbol that you are the Champion,” Steven said, “and to all who may ask, it is nothing more than this! Do you understand?” he pressed.
Ren nodded. “But . . . it's something more?” he ventured.
“Yes, of course. It is what will guide you to a further explanation. I have told you all that I am permitted to tell you for now. For the rest of the story, all you need to do is go to sleep any time after sundown.”
“Go . . . to sleep?” Ren asked skeptically as he did the clasp up and settled the Dreamlight beneath his shirt. It felt cold against his skin, but pleasantly so. “What does that have to do with anything?”
Steven shook his head. “Sadly, I may say no more. When you go to sleep tonight, you must wear the Dreamlight. This will lead you to your answers.”
Ren closed his eyes for a moment before standing up and pacing around the room, looking at the barren walls and featureless ceiling. “I don't like it,” he said eventually. “I don't like it at all. You want to know why I don't like it? Because it sounds like a fantasy. Something I'd read in a book. Normally, that would be cool, but . . . you telling me this suggests one of two things.”
“Firstly, I'm pulling your leg,” Steven supplied, examining one of the fingers on his left hand. “Secondly, there's something huge going on that you can't comprehend. In either case, you feel threatened. If I'm making fun of you, then the joke is on you, and nobody likes that. You fear ending up as the fool. If, on the other hand, I am telling the truth, you instantly find yourself far out of your depth, facing the unknown, and that is what you fear most. Am I right?”
“Exactly,” said Ren. “I don't get how, but you're right.”
“It's not too hard,” said Steven, abruptly standing and crossing the room to stand directly in front of Ren. Gripping the boy by the shoulders, he looked him straight in the eye and said, “Because that's exactly what went through my head when I was told about this six years ago.”
Ren shuddered deeply. Something in Steven's light blue eyes worried him. He couldn't explain what it was, but there was no doubt that it was nothing good. Steven apparently felt the tremor, as he gave Ren a comforting pat on the shoulder before he released him.
“Tell you what. We've still got some time, and there's no sense talking about this any more. Let's go and find something to do in Rustboro for the afternoon.”
“But . . . I have more questions!” Ren protested.
“No, you don't. Ask them to . . . well, the person who will explain the rest of this to you.”
“But you haven't even told me who that is!”
“It doesn't matter. You will meet them tonight. I told you – all you have to do is go to sleep with the Dreamlight on. For now, difficult though it may seem, I'm going to have to ask you to put everything I have just said out of your mind.”
“What? You want me to . . . just forget about it?”
“What was the point of telling me in the first place, then?”
“I told you,” Steven said. “It's so that you don't panic when the truth is revealed.”
just tell me?” Ren asked, his left hand involuntarily balling into a fist. “Wouldn't that be the sensible thing?”
“It is . . . forbidden.” Steven looked down at the floor.
“Forbidden? Who forbade it?” Ren ground his teeth slightly.
This is getting ridiculous
“I . . . can't tell you that, either,” Steven said. “Can you please just do as I ask? This is difficult for me also.”
“Fine,” Ren said in disgust, folding his arms. “If you're going to be too bloody-minded to just tell me what's going on, then whatever.”
“Excellent,” said Steven, pointedly ignoring Ren's petulant frown. “And although I hardly feel you need to be reminded of this, everything that was said in this room remains here. You must not speak of it to anybody else unless I say so. Understood?”
Ren nodded. Who would he tell, anyway? It sounded like a load of rubbish, anyway. Spiritual power? Who did Steven think he was kidding? But still, it didn't make sense if Steven was joking. After all, why would he? There was no good reason for him to, and that was the fact that Ren could not deny. He only wished Steven would answer his questions a bit more directly.
“In that case, let us return to the library and collect your cousin,” Steven said, unlocking the door. “I imagine she will be pleased enough to be liberated from my sister's dreary company.”
“She didn't seem that dreary to me,” Ren said as he followed Steven out of the meeting room.
“Oh, she is, I'm afraid,” Steven said wearily. “Of course, I wouldn't ever say it to her face, but spending time with her is . . . taxing.”
“She likes her books, Katrina. She doesn't do people well. It's hard to explain, but . . . having her in the room immediately puts something of a damper on one's mood. It's like she emanates waves of 'I don't want to be here, I don't want to talk to you' that rub off on everyone else.”
“That's not very nice,” Ren frowned.
And this is the girl studying anthropology?
he wondered. “She can't be all that bad, surely?”
“Oh, don't get me wrong,” Steven said. “I'm very fond of her. But I wouldn't really want to spend too much time with her.”
Ren didn't say anything. What could he have said to that?
“Katrina!” Steven said brightly, pushing open the library door. “We're done!”
“Oh, hello, Steven,” Katrina's voice said from somewhere among the shelves. “We're over here, by the biographies.”
Steven raised his eyebrows at Ren, then tilted his head to indicate that they should both go. The pair made their way carefully through the hazardous-looking maze of loaded bookshelves until they finally spotted Natasha and Katrina, sitting cross-legged on the floor amongst a multitude of books.
“You didn't take as long as you said you were going to,” Katrina said, raising her eyebrows. “I don't think it's even been half an hour yet.”
“No, you're right,” Steven said, “but nonetheless, we have finished our . . . business.”
“Well, that's all right. I'll see you around some other time, Natasha,” Katrina smiled.
Natasha looked up at Ren curiously. “Why are you back so fast? I was having fun!”
Ren smiled. “We finished talking about what we needed to, so we're done. Come on, let's not bother Katrina any more than we have to.”
“Oh, it's no trouble, really,” Katrina said, waving a hand airily. “She's a remarkably intelligent child.”
“Can't I stay a bit longer?” Natasha begged.
“Actually, if Katrina doesn't mind, that works out perfectly,” said Steven. “Ren and I have somewhere else to be, and if you want to stay here for another couple of hours, I don't see an issue with that.”
“Somewhere else to be?” Ren said blankly. “Like where?”
“Did I not mention it? You and I are appearing on tonight's
to be interviewed.”
“No!” Ren exclaimed. “You did
mention that! And I want nothing to do with it!” he fumed. It was bad enough that people had to recognise him wherever he went, but any measure of anonymity he might have retained would surely be destroyed if he appeared on primetime television.
“I'm afraid you don't have a choice,” Steven said. “I made the arrangements this morning and they've been hyping it all day via advertisements. Two Champions on TV together is not something that happens often, and you're not getting out of it.”
“You can't just go ahead and make decisions like that on your own! I don't want to be on TV!”
Steven gritted his teeth. “Newsflash, Ren: you're going to have to get used to it. The Champion is a media personality as much as he is anything else.” As if suddenly noticing that Natasha and Katrina were still listening, wide-eyed, from their position on the floor, he inclined his head to them politely. “My apologies. Ren and I will be leaving now. We will return later this evening to collect his cousin.” With that, he wheeled and strode from the library, leaving Ren to follow him reluctantly.
Once the door to the library had closed, Ren stepped in front of Steven and glared at him. “What the hell are you playing at?” he hissed. “I can't do this! I don't want to do this!”
Steven's mouth remained set in a firm line. “You have no choice in the matter. It is your responsibility as a Champion to be accessible to the people of Hoenn, and you have to learn to do that whether you like it or not. I'll give you a hint – it's a lot easier if you like it.”
“Steven, I can't! It's not like I can't walk down the street for fear of being recognised or anything, but this is just going too far.”
“You're not getting out of it,” Steven said adamantly. “Now come on. It's already four o'clock, and we need to be there for five thirty.”
Reluctantly, Ren followed Steven towards the lift, his heart sinking.
Originally Posted by
I wanted to smack my face in utter sadness at the end of the newest chapter. Stupid cliffhanger. Good way to end a chapter though. :D I really want the next chapter to be posted so I can read what happens. :D
I love all the questions Ren asks himself. It's interesting to read his "inner turmoil". Natasha is a great character and I hope she appears more often. (She's hilarious.) I didn't catch much spelling and grammar wise.
Sweet as. Thanks for reading! Have another cliffhanger! Well, sort of.
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